This is a guest post from one of our enthusiastic readers – I think he is a badass spec ops guy or something, because he will only let me publish his first name, Brian; no other identifiers.

Anyways, the JTR, or Joint Travel Regulations, goes over official military policies for reimbursing military travel expenses and per diem…in a word – MONEY! The most recent changes are not positive, but I’ll let Brian take it away:

 

“Here is a link to the DOD Defense Travel Website describing significant changes to official travel and per diem.  http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/changesjtr.cfm

 

Announced earlier this month, the following changes impact all DOD travelers on official orders.

 

  1. Incidental Expenses (Effective 01 Oct ‘14). Adds ATM fees, baggage tips, laundry/dry cleaning (regardless of location), and transportation tips as part of the daily incidental expenses when performing official travel. The aforementioned expenses were previously separate miscellaneous reimbursable expenses incurred by an eligible traveler when authorized by the responsible AO in the GOV’T’s interest.  Estimated annual cost savings across DOD is $15.6M.  See Item No. 186-13 at the link above for detailed explanation and examples.  

Bottomline, you can no longer submit ATM fees, baggage tips, laundry for reimbursement while TDY.

 

  1. Flat Rate Per Diem for Long Term TDY (Effective 01 Nov ‘14). Establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for long term TDY that would authorize a traveler 75% of the locality per diem rate for TDY periods over 30 days but not exceeding 180 days. This item also establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for TDY in excess of 180 days to be set at 55% of the locality per diem rate.  See Item No. 118-13 at the link above for detailed explanation and examples.  

Bottomline, your lodging and meals & incidents both go down to 75% on day 31 of a TDY and down to 55% on day 181 of a TDY.

 

In my opinion change #2 is a big deal.  My concern and the concern of those I work with is not so much about M&IE, but about lodging.  This means if you’re TDY for over 30 days, which happens to many people (schools, training, LNO duties, etc…), you’ve got to negotiate or find a hotel rate that is either 75% or 55% of the authorized lodging rate, depending on your length of stay.  No longer can you just rely on the “Government Rate” to ensure you get reimbursed for your lodging.  However,  the accompanying memo (item 118-13) does state on page 4 “if the CTO determines that lodging is not available at the reduced per diem rate [75% or 55%], the AO may authorize actual lodging, not to exceed the locality per diem rate.”  This means if you haven’t already, you’ll need to start using your CTO to book hotel rooms/lodging over 30 days.

 

Maybe these changes are needed to cut the Defense spending, force Service Members to use “On Post” or “On Base” lodging, and ultimately bring down expenses associated with official travel, but this is going to be a big culture shift across the Services when it comes to official travel.  Until the reduction in per diem rates becomes the norm and understood by all, it will take some creativity on the part of Service Members and DOD Civilians and a lot more reliance on the CTOs for booking lodging.

 

What are your thoughts on the reduction in per diem rates?  How are your command and fellow Service Members/DOD Civilians adapting to these changes?

 

Brian”

 

Thanks Brian, I’m with you. I hope hotel chains will adapt to these changes, but with reimbursement rates so low, I don’t know how they could and remain financially viable. I foresee some serious backlash on this change.

-Andy

 

Posted by glenn | 5 Comments

5 responses to “Uh oh…military members losing money on travel expenses”

  1. State Gov't says:

    Workplace reimbursements can be a huge hassle for any government employees. I work for a state gov’t agency (and am required to travel frequently) that only reimburses plane tickets, taxis, hotels, and a $31 per day per diem. Tips aren’t reimburseable, parking is if he right set of circumstances are present. Needless to say, I’ve gotten to visit many places I would have never gone to on my own, but the personal costs can add up quickly.

  2. Beltway Bandit peon says:

    Hi,

    I appreciate your service. I’m a contractor and have to follow the same travel rules but without the benefit of govt. ID.

    it’s hard enough getting a room at per-diem now and a fractional per-diem is unlikely.

  3. Joe says:

    Its actually not bad. Flat rate only kicks in on long term, 30+ TAD. And even then, you can make more money…You can find a long term efficiency or rent a room for a couple hundred, and still get paid the flat-rate, per day per diem. For example…. you are long term on a work up where Gov rate room is $87 and M&IE is $66. Total entitlement for traditional is $153, and your lodging is adjusted to actual cost, so you get your M&IE for the day of $66 dollars total per diem for you $3960. Long-term… you get the flat rate… Lodging rate + 75% of M&IE = 136.5. You get that everyday, with no adjustment based on actual lodging cost, no Non-availablity statement, no receipt for lodging required for submission. A 60 day Traditional TAD you’d get $3960 in per diem. With Flat rate, your per diem is $8190 find an furnished apartment for maybe $800 a month, and you’ll get the remainder $6590. I’d take that in a second.

  4. Andy says:

    @Joe – Interesting. Do you have to designate whether it’s a long rate, or does it happen automatically?

  5. […] of our readers, Brian,  told you last fall about new rules meant to save the Government money by reducing the amount of per diem for long term […]

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